Hello, my fine people.
I thought you might like an update on my mom and her geriatric assessment that took place last week.
I wish I could tell you what the assessment results were, but that report has to go to her family doctor first, and is then released only if she requests it. But I've been told the family doctors may relax those rules in the interest of communication and making good choices for the patient.
Mom had reluctantly agreed to have a health care worker come in to her home to give her her pills, but when the time came for her to give her official permission, she balked. And it wasn't worth it to me to fight it.
She is quite concerned about Covid, or at least that is the reason she has given for a lot of the preferences she expresses. She would go to the grocery store every day if she had transportation, but she won't have anyone in her house.
But we've had a slow breakthrough, if there's such a thing, on the new car decision - she told me yesterday that she misses her car and would like to have another, but then she thinks to herself, "It's so much easier for Donkey to drive me places!"
So, even though my heart sank a little at the thought of being caught in the role of chauffeur, it's better than having her drive.
And maybe it will eventually lead to her accepting other people driving her, if necessary.
My impression from the geriatric clinician who conducted her assessment is that nothing will change in Mom's living arrangements until she gets much worse. Bearing in mind that she could not actually release the report to me, this was only my impression, based on her careful choice of words when I asked about "care for the caregiver" (me) and explained why I was asking.
It wasn't unexpected, but it was still hard to hear. She said that if a patient refuses outside help, the family may have to accept a certain amount of risk, and things may have to get considerably worse before anything can change. She gave the example of her own farming grandmother, who finally got to the stage where she couldn't understand that the caregivers were caregivers, and instead thought they were farm workers who had no other place to stay, and thus allowed them to stay in her home.
I am resigned to this now, but only because I have done a lot of pondering on how to balance my needs and my mother's needs. I have thought about boundaries, and responsibility, and also the sad fact that my help will likely never be enough for her, given her memory loss, and the end result of that will be an unhappy mother, no matter how much I do.
So, instead of an intensely unhappy but short period of my mother railing against suddenly being "put" into a nursing home, I will be facing a long slide into unhappiness for her, coupled with me feeling unappreciated and unfairly burdened. I expect there will be many moments of frustration for both of us, but it seems there is no easy choice. And to be honest, in many ways I don't think she needs to be in a nursing home yet, I just need to not have full responsibility for every aspect of her life where she does need help.
Two weeks ago, I think my head would have exploded if anyone had had the absolute gall to point out that I can't change my situation, I can only change my response to the situation. I've never liked that little aphorism, and I think I know why. Because I didn't understand it.
Today? I can see how that works. I cannot change the situation, true. But changing my response to the situation doesn't mean just gritting my teeth and smiling while I run faster and faster.
What changing my response actually means, at least to me, is to have my boundaries firmly defined in my own head, and then doing - or not doing - the things that take those boundaries into consideration.
For example, I will visit her daily with her pills, because I think that's an important basic function to maintain her health, and as I said she will not accept anyone else's help (yet!). But I will not take her grocery shopping every day just because she'd like to get out, partly because I know the daily pill visits are going to deplete me, and partly because I have offered her other ways to socialize and she will not take them.
This may seem so obvious to the average observer, but it's been hard-earned wisdom for me. I am a people-pleaser, and a person who takes my family responsibilities very seriously. And I tend to push myself to the wall, and then even further, before I realize I can't go on. I need to set those boundaries so I won't reach that point of desperation.
And so . . . . . . on we go . . . with a rather steep learning curve for both of us.
In other news, I have met my most urgent work deadlines, so I am enjoying a bit of a break for a couple of days. As I write this, it is past suppertime and I haven't done a thing all day except loaf around and listen to the peace and quiet. It's one of my favourite sounds.
Yesterday I learned how to get gas in a gas can for the lawnmower. I kept expecting the thing to explode, but all was well. The trick is to avoid igniting the gas vapours with either obvious things like an open flame, or unobvious things, like a spark from static electricity in yourself or the plastic gas container, or from a hot vehicle nearby. Thank goodness for the internet, which has the answer to just about anything.
The grass hasn't grown much the last few weeks, which is lucky for me because I didn't have time to cut it anyhow. Our summer has been surprisingly temperate. This is not what we've come to expect from our summers; it feels more like the summers we had twenty or thirty years ago. It makes me feel guilty, given that so many other areas are clearly suffering from the changing climate, enduring fires, drought, record-breaking heat, and flooding. Beyond the guilt, though (which is not a useful response to begin with), I feel profound relief that I haven't had to add relentlessly difficult weather to what feels like an already heavy burden on me this summer.
Small mercies are sometimes not so small.
How are things with you, my friends? I'm here, and I'm listening.
If I were a dog, and if there two of me, this is what it would look like.
So fire away. I'm all ears.